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Beyond Time and Space: Journey into the World of Star Trail Photography

In the realm of photography, few genres possess the ethereal allure of star trail photography. From mesmerizing swirls of light to captivating celestial arcs, star trail photography enables us to witness the passage of time in the night sky. This captivating technique, rooted in both science and artistry, allows photographers to create breathtaking images that transport viewers to the vastness of the universe. In this article, we will delve into the world of star trail photography, exploring its techniques, equipment requirements, and the awe-inspiring beauty it can capture.

How star trails form:

Star trails are the apparent paths traced by stars in the night sky as the Earth rotates on its axis. The Earth's rotation causes the stars to move, resulting in streaks of light that form stunning arcs across the image. These trails can be captured through long-exposure photography, where the camera's shutter is left open for an extended period. It unveils a mesmerizing phenomenon that often escapes our attention in our day-to-day lives. One of the remarkable aspects of star-trail photography is its accessibility to beginners, as it merely calls for a camera and a tripod.

To gain deeper insights into this art form, we had the privilege of interviewing Janne Voutilainen, an accomplished Finnish astrophotographer who has mastered the craft of star trail photography. His preferred gear includes Nikon D800 camera alongside an array of wide-angle lenses, enabling him to create stunning compositions in this captivating genre.

“My journey in astronomy began during my pre-school years at my grandma's farm. It was there that my fascination for astronomy took hold, eventually evolving into a passion for astrophotography, particularly star trail photography. Over the past 15 years, I have immersed myself in this style of photography, and the excitement never wanes. There always seems to be an endless array of captivating foregrounds waiting to be captured. I also enjoy stargazing while I’m outdoors waiting for Earth to slowly spin it’s ethereal dance.

While many individuals advise starting the photography session during the late twilight, I personally disagree. I prefer to commence my shoots during astronomical darkness. By doing so, I ensure that the background of my sky doesn't appear bluish, resulting in more authentic colors. Additionally, I always utilize the daylight preset for white balance, which helps to reproduce the natural hues of the stars.”

Steps to success:

• Composition: Ensure that your image has an interesting foreground as star trails should complement the main subject, not dominate it.

• Lens Selection: Opt for a wide-angle lens to enhance the geometric distortion effect in your images.

• Ideal Conditions: Clear, moonless nights tend to produce the best star colors. Avoid overexposing stars with high ISO settings to capture the most detail in your images.

• Experimentation: Try using different focal lengths and total exposure times to achieve various effects. A good starting point is a two-hour total exposure, but longer times will reveal longer star trails.

• Prevent Dew Formation: To prevent frost or dew from forming on your lens during long exposure shots, use a dew heater. For extended shoots, consider using an external power solution. Voutilainen utilizes a customized power tool battery to power his dew heater and camera.

• Stable Tripod Setup: Ensure that your tripod is placed on a stable surface. Avoid soft sand or wet ground, as they may cause the tripod to sink slowly and move the camera during the exposures.

• Remote Location: Find a remote location to minimize disruptions from passing cars or other sources of light that could ruin your exposures.

• Image Assembly: Use software like Photoshop to assemble your final startrail image. If you prefer freeware, StarStax is a suitable alternative.

By following these improved tips, you'll be well on your way to capturing stunning startrail photographs.


Star trail photography is a captivating art form that allows us to witness the passage of time in the night sky. With careful planning, the right equipment, and a creative approach, photographers can capture breathtaking images that convey the beauty and mystery of the cosmos. By mastering the techniques and post-processing methods, one can unlock the true magic of star trail photography, revealing a world of wonder and awe that lies just beyond our reach. So, venture into the darkness, embrace the dance of the stars, and immortalize the mesmerizing beauty of the night sky.